Agri budget underspend hits €86m
AN underspend of €86m was accumulated by the Department of Agriculture last year, new figures reveal.
Although the latest Exchequer returns, available on the Department of Finance website, do not offer a breakdown of where the underspend was made, Fianna Fáil Deputy, Éamon Ó Cuív, says the figures confirm that spending is “significantly behind”.
“I believe the vast majority of the underspend is on the Rural Development Programme - TAMS, GLAS and the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP). It’s consistent year on year.”
“Unless the Government starts beefing schemes up and moving spending forward they will find it hard to reach budget targets by 2020,” he said.
Despite statements from the Department of Agriculture that it is “fully committed” to spending the full amount of the RDP, Éamon Ó Cuív, FF spokesperson for arts, heritage and regional and rural affairs says his biggest fear is that the national RDP spend - €2.19bn - will not be met by the time it finishes in 2020.
“At the moment my greatest concern is that the money won’t be spent. I don’t believe it was ever intended to be spent because the figures never ever stacked up and they still don’t” he said.
Last month, payments worth €36m, commenced to 19,500 farmers, who complied with 2016 requirements, under BDGP. Meanwhile, the latest batch of GLAS participants have commenced their five-year contracts starting this month.
On TAMS, a Department of Agriculture spokesperson said it is a demand led scheme. “Payments can only be made when work is done and valid payment claim is submitted by applicant”.